I love my dolls’ faces – all of them – but in the midst of an episode I’m often struck by the unanimated expressions of inanimate objects. I hit this most often with Daisy, who has a decided happy expression on her face through all manner of unsettling experiences. (Oddly, Camellia’s expression is suitable to just about any adventure.)
I’ve played around with changing expressions before, by going and fiddling pixel by pixel, but in the midst of my Photoshop tutorials over the weekend, I ran across the “liquefy expression” tool.
Before I show you the details of the tool, here’s the effect.
First, here’s my Strawberry doll (one of the doll in the Up Above treehouse adventure) with her normal expression:
Adorable, but she’s going to have all kinds of adventures that make her smile. Here’s a 30 second adjustment to change her mood
And here’s a similar transformation with Amy. I’ve taken her from her normal, somewhat curious expression:
To a slightly shocked response
If you want to try it out with your own copy of Photoshop, here are the steps.
First, start with a head on (or mainly head on) shot. The tool works by automatically recognizing the parts of the face, which it can only do if you photograph head on.
Then, click on the layer containing the dolls face and choose Filter -> Liquify.
If Photoshop recognizes the face in your image, the Liquify tool will come up with the Face tool automatically selected and you’ll see white markers around the region it identifies as the face.
Then, it’s just a simple matter of playing around the possibilities. You can either drag the handles on the face itself, or use the slides in the panel.
For Strawberry’s smile, I just increased the Smile slider.
For Amy’s shocked look, I decreased the smile, widened her mouth, opened her mouth slightly, and increased the size of her eyes.
There are more freeform ways of making these kinds of changes. Under the Edit menu, there’s something called “Puppet warp” that lets you identify any area and then warp it into new positions. I played around with this for about 10 minutes and successfully changed the position of Daisy’s arm in one of her shots. But, it’s easier to get things wrong with the more complex tools. The liquefy tool, OTOH, is super simple. Just drag the sliders until you get the effect you want.
One thing I did notice is that neutral-faced dolls (like Amy and Strawberry) are easier to change than smiling/frowning dolls. With Daisy’s natural smile, even a “full frown” setting just makes her mouth neutral.
For this week’s episode – one of Daisy’s – I’m going to continue my Photoshop lessons, and I have a book from Scott McCloud (of Understanding Comics) to really explore the panel nature of telling stories.